Former Minister of Defense wants new organization up and running by 2020.

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are grouped into three classes, namely the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces. The SDF may soon be adding space to its operations, though.

In a speech on November 19, former Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera, now a member of the House of Representatives and chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on National Security, asserted that the formation of an SDF division responsible for protecting the nation from space-based threats is within the bounds of the charter that governs the size and scope of acceptable SDF activities. Onodera’s comment comes five months after a visit to Japan’s space agency JAXA in which he said he hoped for increased cooperation between JAXA and the Ministry of Defense.

However, this doesn’t mean Japan is gearing up to build a fleet of Gundam or Macross-style giant robots to patrol the patch of outer space directly above its islands to duel with other nation’s warmechs. At the moment, the primary concerns seem to be disposal of space debris, Asia-focused surveillance operations, and cyber-attack countermeasures, in keeping with the non-aggressive objectives Japan’s SDF charter limits it to.

Onodera was asked what would happen in the case that space-based surveillance detected missiles being launched at Japan from a hostile country and could determine the location of the launch site. Would such surveillance then be used to organize a counterattack? “That was not discussed in our most recent meetings,” Onodera said, but added “It is a question we will have to discuss at some point.”

The SDF’s space division is expected to be jointly administered by the Ground, Air, and Maritime Self-Defense Forces and to begin operations in 2020.

Sources: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Jin, Asahi Shimbun, The Mainichi
Top image: Pakutaso